Guard your evergreens against the harsh winter weather

We love the addition of evergreens to almost any yard. The year-round texture, color and refuge for wildlife is something you can’t replicate with other trees. Plus they look great covered in fresh snow and holiday lights.

But the same winter weather and snow that makes them beautiful and picturesque can actually do damage to our evergreens. So we’ve put together some tips to protect yours, some easier and faster than others, but all designed to guard against the drying and damaging affects of winter.

Let’s start with some of the fastest, most foolproof. The last two tips are included for those of you who may have experienced damage in previous years and/or added new evergreens this fall. And as always, stop in the garden center or give us a call if you have any questions.

1. Water thoroughly until freeze up.

Keep your evergreens well hydrated throughout the year and going into winter so they are at their strongest. You can begin to decrease watering beginning in September, but continue to provide ample moisture through October and possibly part of November until freeze-up.

2. Mulch

Surround your evergreens with a fresh layer of insulating mulch to regulate the soil temperature and seal in moisture. Once the ground freezes, the roots cannot replace lost water, and sun and wind can deplete it from the foliage, a double whammy for your evergreens.

3. Spray with Wilt Stop®

The downside to evergreens standing strong and green through winter is that their leaves have more surface from which to lose water, so they are more susceptible to winter desiccation (drying). This can be prevented with an anti-desiccant spray like Wilt Stop that helps to seal in moisture and protect your broad- and narrow-leafed evergreens.

The great thing about Wilt Stop is it is natural and non-toxic—actually made from the resin of pine trees—and it forms a soft, clear and flexible barrier over foliage to prevent your evergreen from drying out.

4. Create a barrier against wind.

If your evergreens are planted on the south or southwest side of your home, they may be getting the worst of the winter winds and scalding winter sun, a sometimes damaging combination for our trees. If your trees suffered substantial damage last year and/or you anticipate a particularly harsh winter, you can construct a burlap barrier.

Post sturdy metal or wooden stakes at an angle around the south/southwest side of the tree, then wrap with burlap, being sure to keep the top open for light and air exposure. The natural, porous fiber of the burlap or similar fabric allows some wind to pass through, making it resilient enough to withstand the wind, but minimizing the strongest, coldest gusts from reaching your evergreen. This can also minimize the accumulation of large amounts of drifting, damaging snow.

5. Buddy-tie your tree.

This is the same philosophy that is used when we buddy-tape a weaker, sprained or broken finger to a stronger one for support.

Many evergreens and other trees have multiple leaders, or two dominant branches or sides of growth. On their own, they can be more susceptible to breakage from heavy snow and ice, especially at the point just above the crotch of the tree or the area where the trunk branches into two.

By joining the two leaders approximately halfway up from the weak crotch area, you give them more stability and strength. You can use strips of strong cloth (the rest of your burlap, perhaps) or nylon stockings for the bind, just be sure to remove them before spring growth to allow movement and prevent girdling.

Enjoy everything winter has to offer, including your evergreens.